Who do you think you are?

MyLove and I recently did one of the DNA spit test, send away kit things to uncover our ancestry. We were both oddly excited, not fearing we’d find out we were cousins or something, but you never know in small-small towns! We received our results with no humungous fanfare, but a couple little oddities popped up. Hubby is not nearly as Swedish as he thought he was. And mine well, it was a very neat discovery that connects me back to one of my favorite “dates with Jesus” found in the Book of John. I’ll get to more of that in a moment…

The coolest part of the report is learning about the Maternal Haplogroup to which I belong. This particular group ventured from Africa and trotted off to different regions of the Middle East, which in Biblical times, included Samaria. I tell you all of this because 1) I think it’s cooler than shit & 2) It makes me feel connected to one of the more well-known stories of the Bible.

 “Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.” (John 4:1-6, NIV)

Let’s look at a couple things here, this passage begins with the Pharisees (the extra religious who thought they knew EVERYTHING and were better than EVERYONE) being a bit jealous of the work Jesus was doing. It may have started a bit of a grumbling in the region, and it was just better for Jesus and the Twelve Boys to bolt. The biggie for me is in verse 4; stating that Jesus had to go through Samaria. This is Jesus, folks! He doesn’t have to do anything! Jesus’ had to, didn’t mean He physically had to go through Samaria, it meant He HAD TO go through Samaria.

The other point to note in this passage is the mention of the time. Noon. The hottest time of the day! No one goes to the well at NOON! They go in the coolness of the morning or dewiness of evening. Literally making that the times of ‘gathering around the watering hole’. Women would all congregate at the well in those hours. Many of the women being single and ready to mingle. And that would definitely bring the guys around and maybe some matches made at the well. But back to the story…

“7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) (John 4:7-9, NIV)

This chick ‘just’ shows up at the well where Jesus is waiting. This woman didn’t seem important enough at the time to name, but this woman is about to change history. The big nugget to know here is that the Jews HATED Samaritans!! So much so that they would walk hours out of their way to avoid Samaria so they didn’t even have to see a Samaritan. AND she, was a SHE! It was forbidden to speak to an unaccompanied woman in public! And here rolls Jesus, chit-chatting at the well.

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Now Jesus wasn’t trying to be a jerk, but He wasn’t going to be just busting out who He is right away. He’s not trying to play the Dating Game or be coy. He was trying to see what the level of understanding and her knowledge was.  The chick knew the ancestry of the well and the importance of the giver of the well, Jacob. But Jesus is talking about something entirely different, the Promise of God.

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”’

OooOOooh snap, y’all, Jesus just called her out. FIVE husbands! And she was shackin’ up with a dude she was not married to! Five husbands! I’m not sure I’ve liked five men in my lifetime enough to even entertain the thought of marrying five of them! The relevance of this, if she were a five time widow, she would be viewed very differently. Let’s remember, she was at the well, alone. At noon. She was outcast. She was shunned. She wasn’t having a Mom’s Morning Out with her gal-pals, she was going to the well when she knew NO ONE would be there. No one to judge her. No one to mock her. No one to notice her. But then, Jesus.

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”” (John 4:19, NIV)

A Prophet? Well no shit Chickie! Onward, deeper into the story…

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:25-26, NIV)

What Jesus has just done here, He has revealed himself. His truth. His Father’s truth. And the Way! And in perfect timing, the Boys come back from Trader Joe’s from their grocery run.

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” (John 4:27, NIV)

The Boys have spent enough time with Jesus that they don’t ask what He’s doing.

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.” (John 4:28-30, NIV)

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. (John 4:39-41, NIV)

The woman who had been hiding from her shame, from the judgey people and from having to explain herself for the millionth time, left her water jar and took off towards town. She just had to share this amazing news! No longer the Town Outcast or Village Whore or Whatever.You.Want.To.Call.Her, she was now an evangelist. A WOMAN evangelist! Sharing the news of Jesus to a community that cast her out. And did you notice??? They all came out to meet the man she was speaking about!!

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”(John 4:39-42, NIV)

Here’s the cool part, Jesus could have gone in to town and preached to the crowd himself. He could have skipped this skippable woman, altogether! But he encountered her first, to change her world and then the world around her!

They believed!! They believed!! Jesus hung around the community for a couple more days, changing the lives of many people. The community that had shunned her, believed her!  They spent time with this Jewish stranger and his posse, in a land that the Jews hated! A community that welcomed them. Jesus loved them, not for their zipcode or for any other reason but the simple fact that they were the Children of God.

Let’s circle back to the beginning of this rambling, my DNA. The progression of my Haplogroup leads me through this land, at least my ‘people’ were a part of this land. Which is, like I mentioned, cooler than shit, but my DNA isn’t the only connection.

My past, my choices, my life resembles the woman at the well. The shame I’ve carried, may not have been all mine to carry, but I carried it nonetheless. Shame is intended to keep you feeling unworthy and unloved. To keep you tethered to your very own water jar.

The judgement I’ve experienced, may not have come from my heritage, but from life choices. Some of which I do feel poorly about, but no longer feel the shame. The people who wanted to shun me, some of which were religious leaders in whom I believed, in decades long ago, no longer get to point their pious staffs to my chest.

For decades, I believed the Pharisees and the town-folk. I believed the people that said I was unworthy. I believed that I should feel shame and wear it like a Scarlet Letter.

What I love here is that Jesus went to her. He already knew who she was, where she would be and when! That’s why he had to go to Samaria! He knew that he needed to meet this woman, at the well of her despair and love her enough for her to put her water jar down. He knew that He could change her stars just by an encounter with her, but He wanted to change so much more!

Jesus didn’t use the religious leaders! He didn’t stand on a podium like a carnival barker and tell the Samaritans that they were evil. He loved them. That’s all. He loved them enough to invest time with them. To do life with them. And he used a woman with no name to get it done!

Maybe you’re the woman with no name.

Maybe you’re a little bit of a Pharisee, thinking that your way is the only way.

Maybe you’re one of the town-folk that has shamed and kept the unlovable at arm’s length, even more than that, you’ve wanted the unlovable removed from your sight.

I pray that you will put down your jar. Smash it to shards!

I pray that you speak truth and love to someone who’s still holding on to their jar!

I pray that you encounter the Well and find the spring of peace.

I pray that you drink of the Living Water, and allow it to refresh your soul.

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One Word

2017 was the first year I purposefully set a “one word” into being, rather than offering up a well meaning, but never fulfilled “resolution”.

My word for 2017 was Boundaries. I totally lost sight of my word, allowed myself beyond boundaries that were healthy or helpful. My word rediscovered me, revealed itself where I had least expected, and showed me lessons learned while I wasn’t looking.

My word for 2018 can be found in the waiting; for my 3rd grandchild to be born, for a BIG birthday year, and the vision of a 2nd book (yet to be written).

My word can be found in the hoping, believing in better health solutions and for relationships restored.

Yes, I can safely say, 2018 is to be filled with Expectation!

Cheers to 2018! And all that you are expecting!!

My Life in Shingles

We have been anticipating the work of a new roof for several weeks. Spring rains have been a beast and prevented much work being done outdoors.img_1155-e1496258786125.jpg A couple of pallets of material have been sitting in my driveway awaiting their purpose in the roofing project. Nothing as dramatic as ‘baited breath” but all await the element of newness and covering it will provide. As a ‘renter’ we were not a part of the decision making process. So as these stacks of material sit in my driveway, I have no idea the color or design that hide beneath their wrapping.

The day it finally begins, naturally, is my day off. The workers arrive around 7am (prompt fellas) and I a bit too eagerly go outside to greet them and offer them coffee. [Yeah, well,  I’ve never been a part of this type of project and I just assumed that’s what I’m supposed to do.] They decline and I’m sure there was a bit of eye rolling as I turned on my pale-blue fuzzy slippers and return inside.

Now, my logical brain fully understood what was about to happen. They would be tearing off all of the old shingles, do some repair work and then place new shingles on the roof. Somewhere between logic and reality is where I tend to reside and this bliss (usually) keeps me content. This day, holy guacamole, bliss it is not.

The workers walk the perimeter of the house getting things moved from harm’s way and laying out their tarps. This is when I discover my family room is pretty much a fish bowl, me looking out, them seeing in. I know they are doing their best to not look in and judge my dirty floors or how desperately I need to vacuum. I wait for them to move to another spot, so that I can close the curtains without being rude. The woven curtains are really glorified sheers, and offer a pitiful amount of coverage. But I at least, feel less obvious.

Loud….Sweet Jesus, it is SO loud. I’m not sure how daintily I imagined they’d be removing the old roof, but this sure-as-shit is louder than I figured. I tried to busy myself, wash dishes – “oh hi, dude right outside the window”, I tried to paint my nails –smearing them as I jump at every overly loud sound. I surrender to just well, surrender my day. While I’m wondering how I will survive this day, it dawns on me; the analogy in this process. This process, is the process of my life.

Like life, damage isn’t always visible. I didn’t seem to notice there was roof damage, inspectors surveyed the roof up-close-and-personal and discovered the damage. Sometimes we keep people at a distance so they don’t see our damage. We think we are doing a good job of keeping up appearances and all the while, something is faulty below the surface. Perhaps it’s something that occurred during a storm or time of trouble in the atmosphere. Perhaps it’s because of a repair-job in the past that wasn’t up to par.

We may have invited the inspector to assess the damage, hoping we can fool them or hope that they’re lousy in their job. We are so incredibly vulnerable up close. Under scrutiny. It’s when they find a chink in our armor, our protection, our covering, our roof; that the real work begins. A crew will arrive and set your world spinning, and it certainly won’t be quiet. We hide behind coverings and partially sheltered windows, keeping our damage, our hurts, hidden from view. But as the discovery crew mingles around our perimeters, they see through the meager sheers. While they may not fully see our damage, they can see our frame, our shadows.

The noise level inside my home is beyond a nuisance or annoying. It’s painful. As a headache begins to pound, I understand more about the daily noise we live with. We busy ourselves with activities and tasks. We hear the clamor of a washing machine or dryer, but it’s familiar. It’s a white noise; almost lulling us into contentment. This racket, geez, it’s unpredictable, unfamiliar and unwelcome. While I know that progress is being made outside of my view; I can’t help but wish them away. I begin to justify myself – it couldn’t be that much damage. They don’t know need to replace the whole roof. Couldn’t they just patch it up?

I’ve become a master of patching-it-up. Patch on a smile or a new hair color, all the while I’m leaking somewhere below the surface. The litany of my shingles that are in disarray are as tall as a ladder going to the top of my 2-story house. I can choose to repair one or two, here and there, but they won’t match. I can replace just the shingles on one section of the house, but the other sides have faulty shingles of their own.

The tarp the crew has laid out to protect the surfaces around my house will also help in the clean-up process. They will soon have the ability to gather up the tarps and discard of the junk easily into the dumpster. However, in the meantime, it is a hot mess of scrap and debris and an overturned garbage can. Much like the debris of my past, it seems to be an overwhelming disaster zone. I can gather it all up and discard it and present the illusion of nothing having been overturned. You know as well as I, no one is ever truly fooled by this swift-swoop-and-chuck routine.

Even as the destruction-construction crew takes a break, I sit in anticipation of their return. I’ve lived many years, with a certain level of nervousness, a palpitation of anxiety in my ears; a vibration that hums below detection or description. It is like the dog whistle who’s pitch is undetectable to human ears, but to a dog, [I’m assuming] it’s torturous.

As predicted, the peacefulness of their lunch break has succumbed to the pounding of a thousand hammers (maybe 6 really). Even as I focus on my own thoughts, my brain wanders. It sits down and protests forming 3 cohesive words. It causes me to wonder the weirdest things, they converse and laugh. A random wohoo seeps through the rafters. I of course, come up with clever conversations and challenges that would evoke a ‘wohoo’, but let’s be honest, they probably just evaded getting pooped on by a bird while atop the 2nd story roof.

The process of remodeling one’s life is likely akin to this roofing process. Damage. Inspection. New material. Destruction. A LOT of noise and mess…but you see, this process is not yet complete! I’m in the middle of it. My home is in the destruction and mess phase. My life is in the understanding of repair needing to be done. Both home and life require core repairs to stop from future damage taking hold. While the new shingles are still under wraps and protected from the elements (and from view), so too is my future. Oh yes, it’s tempting to peak past the packaging to see the new shingle color, but the end result will be so rewarding. Likewise, as each day dawns, I have the opportunity to view it with no wrapping obscuring my eyes. To view each opportunity as a mess and destruction or the reward of a job well done.

 

 

When Everyday Life is the Biggest Puzzle

Imagine your life as a jigsaw puzzle…

The information on the puzzle box is incredibly limited. It does not tell you how many pieces are inside. The photo on the outside of the box is just blue sky, scattered with soft focused clouds. As you look at the photo on the box, you mutter, “This is going to be so difficult to put together.” Every puzzle piece looks identical in color. The theory, in any time you put together a puzzle, is that the puzzle will look EXACTLY like the photo on the outside of the box. Your hands steadily open the box of the puzzle-of-life and remove the lid to see the contents. Much to your surprise, there are pieces of strange colors and of strange images, not all blue sky as you assumed.

My strategy, in putting together a puzzle, is to search out and place all the straight edges and corners to build the framework first. The beautiful blue frame stares back at you with the promise of many days yet to come. Your logical brain knows that life isn’t always going to be blue skies, it is a certainty that there may be clouds, maybe even a storm or two. As you fill in the pieces, you uncover a piece with an image of children. That’s pretty cool, not sure where they fit in, but it makes you smile. As you stir through the pieces, you discover an image of a lovely garden, again not sure where it fits, but pleasing nonetheless.

As you stir through yet more pieces, turning them right side up, you find a heart. Not just any heart, this one is broken. Oh! if only you knew where it fit, you could possibly prevent it from breaking. The next piece turned over, a hospital bed. You can assume that it must fit before the kids, after all, children are born in hospitals. But this piece is not even shaped like any of the other pieces. It is so random. You keep it within eye-line, always in sight, wondering when and where it fits.

You realize that you have excruciating back pain, you pass it off as having been sorting and searching for so long. Some hot packs and Advil with surely take care of it. There is a much bigger task at hand, making sense of this chaos. Hours and days blend together, as you piece together the story of your life. A little piece with a pill comes to sight, and another, and yet another. It seems as though the medications have multiplied and don’t resemble each other. You group them together and push them to the side.

You’re surveying the pieces before you. Some are brightly colored and some have dark murky images. A gloomy image of two people sitting across from each other in what looks like an office setting. These people do not look happy. One person with their head in the hands, the other holds a clipboard and pen. Unsure of what this means, you begin a new section of puzzle pieces.

Another shadowy piece is a bottle of poison, or so you think. When you look closer at the label, it appears to have some biohazard looking image on it. Is it a warning of something dangerous? Off to the side with the other dark pieces…

If only we were able to see all of the pieces of our life laid out in front of us. To see the timing and plan, the purpose of it all. Our sense of control would be so overwhelming, we would manage and manipulate the puzzle to fit our plan. Our way. Had I known that the piece with the broken heart would surface more times than I can count, I would have maybe withdrawn. Not allowed myself to love so ferociously. That would have been the worst, not the broken heart, the lack of passion in my life.

There is no way to compartmentalize life. There is no way to neatly organize our darkness or create nice, neat edges. The dark image of the people facing off in an office could represent many facets of my life. I’m not exactly sure which piece is which, perhaps it’s the conversation with a lawyer during my divorce. Perhaps it’s the conversation with a doctor that is just not listening to me or hearing the cry of my body. Perhaps it’s the conversation with a trusted friend that doesn’t understand or believe the abuse of my past. In any scenario, I’m was left feeling defeated and dark.

The dimness of a hospital bed, in this puzzle, served my parents, so many days and nights sitting around a hospital bed praying for better days. Cancer and disease are beasts that we try to tame. Days into months of lingering illness and pain. Some never know the victory over the beast. Little did I know, that in their death, I would learn about strength.

The ‘pill pieces’ have been present most of my adult life. I’ve battled depression and anxiety to epic proportions. I’ve had seasons of quiet and seasons of mayhem. Those manic seasons come and go, but never completely disappear. It’s in those season that I’ve craved peace. Sought it out and chased it. Peace is elusive. What you are certain will bring you peace, may be the core of chaos. While it is imperative to seek peace, seek discernment and wisdom equally.

In your busy-ness of life, you learn to pass off the little moments of discomfort as nothing more than nuisance. The back pain that stops you in your tracks can be attributed to a zillion things. Your weight, poor posture, an occupation on your feet all day. Never would you assume that your back pain may be the root of a deeper more invasive disease. Too busy to give it light, you pass it off as that, passing. When putting together the pieces of a puzzle within a puzzle, you discover you have an autoimmune disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis.  It’s when you understand your ‘biohazzard puzzle piece’ is not a warning of danger ahead, it is the treatment for the disease that you [and multiple doctors] failed to see. It’s the victory and defeat. You now have a name for the disease, but the treatment is another chapter in illness that you wouldn’t wish upon an enemy.

But in this tabletop view of life, you can see that these dark puzzle pieces are but small segments of a much bigger picture. Yes, they are visible, but they are surrounded by light. Not always sunshine, but light that gives purpose and life. Your life is that, purposeful. Breathe in the moment of right now. Un-burden yourself of the chaos and quest for having all of your pieces organized just right. Let go the pain of a season of dark days. Look for the lessons learned in those moments. Yes, even the darkness has a lesson to be learned. Sometimes it’s as simple as learning to not do that again, or it’s as complex as finding the voice within to stand up for yourself or a loved one in their dark season.

No, sunshine and blue skies would be too boring, for this girl. I will lean in and learn about love through the pain. Healing in the brokenness. Learn to slow down when my body tells me to. Life is to be lived, discovered anew. Throw the box away! Throw away the picture in your mind of how it should be. And, if life ever gets too blue sky, take a Sharpie and write cuss words across the pieces. Live life – out loud!!